There are those who complain that in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints women are not allowed to hold positions of leadership in the governing body of the church. Although it's true they have their own organization - which is the largest women's organization in the world - where they hold prominent leadership positions, there are some who argue that, even so, women are still under the control of the priesthood which is exclusively comprised of males. The heart of this complaint is that women are not allowed to hold the priesthood, and therefore are not permitted to hold a governing position equal to that of men.
Before we can properly address this issue we must first understand some fundamental truths. First of all, such a feeling on the part of those who are dissatisfied with not being able to hold the priesthood comes from not appreciating who and what woman are. It's an attitude of thinking the grass is greener on the other side. Such people often feel that if women can't have what men posses, then that infers they are not "equal" with men. And if they are not equal then it's assumed that they must be inferior. Thus, the first truth we need to understand is that being unequal doesn't mean being inferior or superior to someone else.
The second truth that needs to be kept in mind is that men and women are different and they were created that way by God. Men and women are different physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. For example, a woman's body, both inside and out, has certain distinctive features that a man doesn't have, and vise-versa. In most cases, there are similarly distinctive differences in the way women react to things than the way men do. Therefore, the second truth that must be understood is that we need to accept our differences and work with them rather than against them.
For example, a pair of pliers is different from an adjustable wrench but that doesn't make one better or worse than the other. Although a pair of pliers can sometimes be used to accomplish the same task as a wrench, it won't do the job as effectively. The same can be said for a wrench being used as a pair of pliers. Although they are both tools, they are made to perform different tasks and function much better when used for the job for which they were created.
The apostle Paul explained to the saints of his day that, "For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling" (I Corinthians 12:14-17)?
Just as the hand is different from the ear, which is different from the foot, so is a woman different from a man. If everyone had the same make-up as men, we would lose the value of a woman's point of view, a woman's tender touch, and a woman's compassionate nature. If everyone had the temperament of a woman, we would lose the value of a man's strength, a man's reasoning, and a man's vision. This is not to say that one is any better than the other. It merely means we are deliberately created different, and therefore have different roles or functions to perform that are ideally suited to those God given differences.
Can a women be strong physically and emotionally? Of course she can. Can a man be tender and compassionate? Certainly. But there is a definite difference in the way men and women show strength and tenderness. God understands this, and therefore assigns men and women different roles which are suited to their particular strengths.
Just because a woman may say, "I am not a priesthood holder therefore I am not a significant part of God's church" doesn't make it so. A woman can do certain things better than a man can. Likewise, a man's natural abilities allow him to do other things better than a woman can. One without the other makes the whole organization incomplete. When these two different people work together, they compliment each other and add something to life that neither alone can provide.
The third truth we need to understand is that it is the Lord who has said woman are not to hold the priesthood. This was not a decision reached by a council of men, or even by a vote of the church members. God is the one responsible for determining what role both men and women are to have in His church. However, there are those who disagree with the Lord's decision because it doesn't fit their idea of what equality means. However, rather than impugn the Lord, they seek to question the authority of those who speak for God. Often they try to infer, or outright state, that such a policy of denying the priesthood to women is based solely -consciously or unconsciously -on a male bias toward women.
The scriptures state that God is the same, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 11:8). If we believe that God is consistent in the way He deals with His children, then we must also believe that the rules which God has established throughout the entire history of mankind are not subject to change simply because we think that times are different now and should be changed. There have always been those who've disagreed with the Lord's ways and have sought to establish their own laws by which to live their lives. But in the end, such people have not found the happiness which they thought would come from their own wisdom.
Throughout all of history, it has only been men who have held the priesthood. If we believe in God, if we believe in the Bible as the word of God, if we believe in the prophets of the Bible to be spokesmen for God, then we must accept that this is the way God has deliberately designed it to be. It is illogical to assume that for centuries man has been able to defy the will of God by not giving women the priesthood because of their biases. The only conclusion we can come to is that the reason women don't hold the priesthood, and therefore don't serve in the governing councils of the church, is because God has so ordered it.
Those who feel offended by this fail to understand that the role which God has assigned to women in His plan is as important, if not more important, than that of a man. The engineer who designs a building is more important than the contractor who builds it. Women are the engineers who design the life of their children. Men are the contractors who then build upon what their mothers have taught them. Furthermore, many men have stated they owe their success in life to their wives, for, without them, they would not have had the motivation, encouragement, and support necessary to achieve what they did. Without women performing the tasks which they are so ably suited to, the great things men have accomplished would not have occurred as well or as frequently as it has.
It has often been observed that, generally speaking, women seem to be more spiritually inclined than men. Someone once remarked that the reason women don't have the priesthood is because they don't need it. Whether or not this is true, it illustrates the point that the priesthood is a calling, not a statement of worthiness. There are many men holding the priesthood who don't magnify their calling, and therefore do a disservice to the office they hold. On the other hand there are a large number of women who behave in a Christ-like manner without the priesthood than many men do with the priesthood. It should be remembered that no one receives salvation simply because they hold the priesthood. Our worthiness for exaltation is determined by our character and not our position in the Church.
However, in today's climate of "equality of the sexes", the importance of a woman's role as a mother and wife is criticized as being demeaning, while the idea of working out of the home, in the business place, is glamorized. When the Lord declares that a woman's place is to use her natural talents to be a constant guiding influence on children, the scoffers complain that this is only a male scheme to keep women in a lowly, subservient position. When the Lord declares that only men are to be given the priesthood, the critics argue that this in an outdated, out of touch with modern reality doctrine that stems back to a time when women were treated as second class citizens.
What is real is that God, our Creator, knows far better than any of us what the best role is for men and women, whether it's in the home, in the business place or in the Church. The fourth fundamental truth we need to recognize is that God loves women just as much as He loves men. Whatever counsel He gives any of us is for our own best interest and well being. When we try to replace the wisdom of God with the wisdom of the current faddish thinking of the moment, we only leave ourselves extremely vulnerable for failure and unhappiness.
When we come to understand and appreciate these four fundamental truths we will also come to realize that the role of a woman is far grander and more important the way God has designed it than anything we could possible devise ourselves.